The group of five Algerians left to Sturlic from Velika Kladusa and crossed into Croatia in the early morning hours of July 5th. Over the next thirteen days, the group walked through the Croatian interior and entered into Slovenia. On July 17th, with dwindling supplies and rations, the group continued until they neared the village of Kozina (SLO) , approximately five kilometers away from Slovenia’s border with Italy.
Exhausted, the group made the decision to seek help by approaching a local Slovenian man for food.
“And he tell, ‘Come come, no problem,’ Give me food, give me two tomatoes and bread and milk, and then we go, no problem. When we go to jungle, we are in this way, like this, when we go to jungle, police come. Two, two cars, and we are tired, I can’t drink you know, one here and one like this here, you know.
To this end, shortly after interacting with this Slovenian man, the group was apprehended by two Slovenian police vehicles, one large van and another patrol car, who approached the group while they walked on a field. There were six officers in total. It was approximately 6:00 pm at this point. Exhausted, the group did not attempt to run away from the officers. Shortly after this, the group-members were loaded into the larger of the two vehicles
“Everybody sit. And take me in car, put me in car, you know car police.”
The group was then driven around 40 minutes back to a police, likely in Ilirksa Bistrica, where they were were held overnight. In the police station, the respondent described Slovenian police officers going searching his belongings and telling him to “Shut up and don’t speak”. The men were stripped searched and one of the group-members was reportedly told to take off his underwear in front of the officers, leaving him completely naked. The respondent recalled that in another instance, when expressed to the officers in the station that he had a problem with his feet, after walking in the forest for many days, which he was concerned about. In response, the respondent described an officer in the station stepping on his foot.
In Slovenia, the respondent was not asked for his fingerprints but rather had his finger scanned at the police station which determined that he had previously been in Slovenia on another transit attempt
“I in Slovenia this is the second I go to Slovenia, before 8 month, one I put this [finger[ here, he tell me my name. Because…when he put this time, he know me. Exactly, directement.”
There was no translator present during their time in this station and the respondent inferred that this was because they were detained on a weekend, meaning that the translators would not work.
The next morning, the group was transported back to the Croatian-Slovenian border at the Rupa crossing at around 9:00 am, at which time they were given over to the custody of Croatian authorities [45.488297, 14.279180] . The respondent described staying for a considerable amount of time in this Croatian border station during which time him and his fellow group-members were not given any food.
“Take me back to Rupa, to border, take me back here. – And put me here, no food, nothing”
There were not given food during their time in the police station, despite their hunger.
“One day, no food, nothing. When I tell him give me food, I give you money to buy food, and he tell me ‘no, you stay’”
“No food, just water.”
“In police station, inside, and open the, close the door. and give you just water and stay.”
At around 7:00 pm later that day, the group was moved in a police van along with a single Pakistani man and driven back to a border area near Bihac (BiH). Upon entering this van, the respondent noted that his and his friends backpacks were no longer in the vehicle. They were never returned to them. The drive from the Rupa border station back to the Bosnian-Croatian border took quite a long time and the respondent described the journey feeling to be around five hours.
Upon their arrival to the push-back site, which was near Lohovo (BiH) the respondent noted that there was another push-back taking place of around 30 Pakistani men. [Approximate location of the push-back site: 44.718696, 15.921338]
“When we are in Bihac, there is another camion, maybe 30, 30 person Pakistan”
The respondent then described being taken out of the van at around 11:30 pm (July 18th). There were approximately four police officers directly interacting with the group at this location holding flashlights and batons. Nonetheless, the respondent described there being many more officers at the location, in the background which he could hear talking. The group was walking for some distance by two police officers who showed them a trail back into Bosnia.
“Police here walk, and he, he tell you follow me. and there is two police here, and go with you. and he, they show you the way, you know. and when you are in border exactly, he tell you, go there, he tell you go this way. and tell him, this way Bihac. He tell you yes yes Bihac. He tell you just five or three kilometers, you smile because it’s a long time, it’s twenty kilometers not five.”
“He tell me go and don’t look back. If you talk more, you take and beat.”
“And you are angry, hungry, you know, you going to, it’s nothing, and you can’t ask anyone in this, in your way, because it’s the night you know, everybody sleep you know.”
The group then walked approximately 20 kilometers back to Bihac, which they arrived at around 3:30 am, and from there continued their journey back to Velika Kladusa in the evening of July 19th.
“It’s a long way, you must to be to to, walk walk, to Bihac, maybe 20 kilometers.”
The group had several of their mobile phones and power banks stolen from them by the Croatian police. Reflecting on this, the respondent described his confusion in receiving differing treatment for Croatian police officers:
“Not all police steal. Not all police steal, because I try before, there is police good, no steal, give me everything, give me my bag, give me my phone, but there is police no good you know, he steal he steal everything.”